I am not ashamed of taking some of my inspiration from Facebook memes. They are no New Yorker Magazine cartoons, granted, but they sometimes can be pretty astute. This particular one said: Women belong in the kitchen; men belong in the kitchen, we all belong in the kitchen – there is food in the kitchen.
Talk to any man in South Asia and he will equate the worth and love for a woman by how well she cooks. Sometimes it is about how well she cleans and other times about how well she manages the house, which means doing groceries and sometimes bills. A recent domestic violence case reported in the press states that a man threatened a woman with divorce because she wasn’t “winning hearts and minds at home.”
Ask the women and they will be so untiringly grateful if their husbands change a diaper once in a child’s lifetime or take their plate to the kitchen after dinner that obviously magically appears every day on the table.
Essentially everything domesticated is a woman’s domain. That is what society perpetrates. Which is pathetic, but forgivable. We are learning to civilize and are finding our feet. However, it is not forgivable when the government puts domestication of women in the curriculum.
In what seems to be a move borne out of sheer madness, the Punjab Government has launched a program for girls in 1,000 primary schools. This program will give girls four hens, one cock and a cage. No, this is not an Onion article. Has the government gone coocoo? (Pun intended)
Did they go to a foreign training in Tora Bora and get a certification in how to enforce gender stereotypes? It gets worse when, head of the Punjab government’s livestock department, told Agence France-Presse that the aim was to promote poultry and educate children about nutrition. I don’t see how children will get educated about nutrition when its only girls who are being taught how to raise chicken.
When in most Pakistani households the last piece of protein always ends up in the male child’s plate, it’s the mindset that needs to change. Not drilling down of the notion that the women cultivate, prepare and serve food while the men, observe, indulge and rate it.
If there was any hope that the new generation of girls in our country would be saved from the learned subservient behaviors of their mothers, government programs like these confirm that they will continue for another few generations.
He went on to say, “We preferred girls’ schools for this project to boys because girls, mostly, have to deal with the kitchen and they are more responsible and caring than boys.” Next you know they’ll be launching a free hammock giveaway program for boys’ schools because boys are usually the ones doing all the recreation and rest, studies show.
It is social conditioning not biology that forces girls to the bidding of the family’s food and comfort needs. If we want to seriously challenge domestic violence we have to re-look at the absurdities in our politics of housework.
The amount of effort and work that goes into the maintenance of a house, its food and nutrition needs and its semblance of peace is so gargantuan, redundant, repetitive and often unrewarding that it is terribly unfair that it only falls on the woman. Not just on women who are at home but even those women who work find that they can cross over into the male domain of financial independence but the man will find it beneath him to cross over into the domestic. Women are tired. They are tired and exhausted to the bone – all the time.
My message to the Punjab Livestock Department: Girls need chicken, boys need chicken, we all need chicken – there is food in chicken.